On irrational numbers

I finally registered my glass molecule making company yesterday.

I’ve wanted to sell my glass (molecules and other artistic glassware) legally for a while – I had the original idea back in 2012, it seems I need a long time to process my ideas.

Whatever. It’s registered now, and ready to go. If anyone wants anything, yell :). I can’t guarantee it’ll be finished before Christmas, but I can certainly try :).

***

Everything that needs registering has to be registered at the town hall. The town hall is only open 4 days a week during the hours I usually work. This year I needed so much time off for all the school related things that I don’t have many days left to take and I don’t want to them for ‘frivolities’. My brother was over to visit for the week and we were going to fly back to my parents together. We (mostly I) wanted to go to see an exhibition before it closed so I’d taken the day off to spend with him and to see the exhibition (and to tidy the flat so that my landlord can feed the fish in my absence). I’m not going to get another chance to go anywhere during weekday opening hours until next year. Next year’s still a long time away. I left my brother to eat his breakfast and headed to the town hall.

Less than 45 minutes later I’d registered the company, deregistered my second accommodation (xDB’s house) and got a new statement/proof of address issued from a different office in the hall (since I was there anyway).

In the past, everything official has taken me ages and heaps of paperwork to complete. Official paperwork daunts me the way maths problems daunt lots of schoolkids. In reality, it was probably the easiest official thing I’ve ever done in Germany.

Turn up, hand over 26€ and some simple information about me and my intentions and sign a form. That’s it! You even have the chance to say when you want to start.

My company is my birthday present to myself, so it would have made sense to save the start date until next week. It’s my birthday on Monday. I’m going to be 31. I think it sounds much cooler to say you started a business when you were 30 than when you were 31. That’s ridiculous. I realise that. Especially when there’s only a couple of days difference. And yet I still feel it to be true.

Yesterday was Thursday. The date was 16.11.17. I could have asked if it could be registered from the 17th (today) because the date would have been cooler, and more memorable, but that would have meant it started on a Friday not a Thursday. I generally like Thursdays. I’m a Thursday baby, lot’s of good things happen on Thursdays and I wanted my company to be a Thursday baby too. That’s probably ridiculous, but I don’t mind being ridiculous sometimes.

Ridiculous or not, I’m now the proud owner of my own part-time company :).
Wheee!!

New molecule: Nicotine

Nicotine molecule - made of glass

Nicotine.

For all the early morning smokers out there who can’t drink coffee without a cigarette, and for anyone who’s trying to give them up and needs something else for their hands to do :).

The next molecules will be displayed on my new site . It’s all in German, because that’s where I’m based at the moment. If you tell me which molecule you’d like (even if it’s not pictured) I’ll make them for you (and ship them anywhere – as long as you pay for the extra postage! :)).

On decorating the workshop

Decorations – not just for Christmas!

This is the wall on your right as you come into the workshop:

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Kolonnenköpfe

These are on the wall on your left:

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All of these Glass Things were hidden in the workshop, gathering dust. As part of our Christmas cleaning marathon, we decided to put them on display instead.

On molecules and foreigners in the workshop

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Earlier this week:

My soon-be-ex-colleague is sitting at a table with 2 or 3 others drinking beer. I’m at my work bank, making prettifull molecules* for a couple of people who have just graduated/completed their PhDs.

An Indian customer comes in with a box of glassware to be repaired. He officially ‘belongs’ to a different workshop, but their glassblower is off sick and we’re close by and he usually comes to us if it’s urgent.

Indian, to colleague, in English: “Can you mend some glass things for me?”
Colleague, not understanding: “hrmph?” (his version of, excuse me, can you repeat that?)
Indian: repeats himself
Colleague, ranting, in German, and gesticulating wildly in my direction: “No. I don’t see why I should do all the work. I’m not the only glassblower in the place, ask her if she can make time for you, etc etc etc”
Indian, to me: “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what he is saying, I think I have made a problem for you…”
Me: “not really, he’s always like that”
Indian, shrugs: “mmmf, he’s German”

We discuss what he needs and he walks towards the door.

Colleague: “…and next time bring a translator with you!”

I go back to the molecule, and my colleague to his beer and a monologue on foreigners and artistic colleagues.

ARGH.

12 and a half days til I’m free!!

* if anyone wants prettifull glass molecules please get in touch 🙂

On solidarity and other fragile things

I used to think solidarity was a good thing.. you know, back in the days of people helping each other and that kind of good thing.

A string of recent events have caused me to rethink this long-standing opinion…

I’m working on my masterpiece. We were allowed to start in the middle of August, and have to be finished in the middle of November.

I chose a pretty hard thing to make, because masterpieces are supposed to be impressive, aren’t they.

I had pretty high expectations and aims for how awesomely amazing this Glass Thing was going to look, and how awesomely amazing I would feel having made it.

2 and a half months later…

…I have made [and shredded] at least 10 would-be-masterpieces and several more half-baked attempts.

Each one has died a different death.

Every time I get anywhere, something breaks, and everything else decides it wants to break too in some kind of sympathetic suicide mission, and I’m left with a pile of sparkling glass shards.

Tomorrow, I think, hope and pray to get at least one, better 2 masterpieces completed.

My original goal of perfection has turned into wanting it to stay in one piece…

This almost sums it up.

On polishing ones fingers

It’s not recommended.

In fact, I would say you shouldn’t do it.

It’s the sort of thing that can mess up your plans.

Except, thinking about it, my plans mostly aren’t up to scratch, so they might as well be messed up or completely got rid of. Sometimes doing things you shouldn’t do seems to work out pretty damn fine.

I wanted to go to see a nice man about a dog glassblowing. About making my Meisterstück to be precise.

It was semi-sorted out and I was going to practise making lots of Things so that I’d be good at it before I got there so that he wouldn’t despair of me or kick me out after the first join.

I also had a huge sleep debt and a bad-tempered colleague. And the Summer had decided to arrive in full force. 35 degrees (C) is nothing.

I had a whole lot of other Glass Things due to be collected very soon, and work Things probably come before private Things, at least in the eyes of the boss.

I was even going to miss the football match* so I could attempt to catch up with myself.

There I stood, in my workshop, polishing important Glass Things by myself, minding my own business and not watching the football. I even put a brand new polishing wheel on the machine.

Suddenly I was no longer polishing important Glass Things, I was polishing my finger.

I’m a glassblower.

My fingers are pretty darn important.

In the grand scheme of things they’re a whole lot more important than the important Glass Things.

I stopped polishing my finger, turned the machine off and washed the polishing muck off so I could see the damage.

I’m not good at blood. I go all queasy and have to lie down (sometimes more quickly than intended). However. I’m also good at self-preservation. This gives me about three and a half minutes (total) between injuring myself and falling over, in which I am still able to function properly.

As I said, I washed my finger, held it up to my face, washed it again because the blood was in the way, bent down to look at it under the tap, got a plaster out of the medicine cabinet, decided a plaster wasn’t going to cut it (or cover it even :P), got out a bandage with a cool joined in gauze patch and a paper towel, washed my finger again, dried it, wrapped it up… and sat down – so as not to fall over.

When I was sure I could stand up without damaging the floor, I turned off the lights, locked up the workshop and went to watch the football.

… to be continued….

* No. I still don’t like football. I just think you should support people you know if they’re crazy enough to play.

On overnight cake-baking

“A work colleague (a nice one) and I are going to visit a super-glassblower for a couple of days and be shown how to do clever things with glass. I want to bring him and his family a cake to thank him for his time and for organising the whole thing.”

I did it! 🙂 I made and decorated a cake and carted on and off multiple trains before presenting it to him 🙂

 

He was very impressed, even if he did think I’d ordered it. When I told him I’d made it myself he was even more impressed 🙂

*proud*

 

I’ll add a picture soon.

On Mystery Boxes

I returned to work on Monday and was confronted with a large grey-brown box.

Apparently The Colleague got wind of someone throwing it away and decided it would be a good coming-back-to-work present for me.

Today, after sitting and looking at it for 2 and a half days, I got The Other Guy to drive it home and carry it up my stairs for me. Very decent of him considering it took up a good share of his lunch break.

The box is not a cardboard box. Nor is it a plastic box. It is a metal box with a door. The door is mostly seethrough.

Inside the box is a square of thick glass. The glass (and the rest of the inside of the box) is covered in a thick, speckled coating of fat and other unapetisingness.

The outside of the box is less fatty and more dusty and has buttons and a dial, a small plastic-window-which-may-or-may-not-be-a-light and a tail. The tail has 2 prongs.

However. I don’t think the tail belongs to an evil spirit. I think it belongs to my new [old] microwave.

Yup. That’s right, I am the [proud] owner of a very old microwave. The sort without a spinning plate.

I have no idea if it works. I know it’s filthy though.

It has instructions on the door, forbidding it’s use when empty.

There’s no way I’m cooking anything in it before washing it.

And that’s the reason I don’t know if it works.

I really ought to go and clean it.

I could then proceed to find out if it works, and eat the result.

I have survived without a microwave for 2 years. I really missed having one when I moved here, then gradually got used to reheating things on the hob (instead of heating the whole oven). Lasagne soup is one of my favourites ;). I’m not sure I NEED a microwave, but I was thinking the other day about how it would be easier to defrost and reheat stuff in a microwave than in the fridge and on the hob. I like the idea of cooking properly, but I don’t often have the energy to do anything about it. When I do, I make more than I need and then freeze the surplus to be eaten at a later date. In theory this is also an idea I like. In practice, my freezer is gradually filling up with home made ready meals that no-one eats. When I come home at 11 pm (not always, but often) I have about as much interest in defrosting something as I do in cooking from scratch. I eat a lot of muesli. Yes, I could probably organise myself better and take it out of the freezer in the morning before work. But seriously? Who’s that organised? Even if there really are people like that, I’m not one of them… yet. In the meantime, I have a microwave 🙂

On patience

It’s not like I’m never ever patient.. I’m not bad at waiting for busses for instance, or waiting for the stampede to die down when icecream’s being handed out.

I’m a glassblower. Patience is part of the job, you can’t want things to happen NOW; either the glass is hot enough (or cold enough, depending on what you’re trying to do) or it isn’t, you can’t rush it.

I also have an oldish laptop, you have to be pretty patient with it too, especially between turning it on and being able to use it.

However.

As soon as I have to wait for an answer to an email, I become an incredibly impatient person.

Every time my email programm “BING”s, I rush to open the tab like a little kid at Christmas..

..almost invariably it’s a spam mail, or something from the Flylady telling me to make my bed or dust the top of my fridge.

Exciting stuff, but still a total let down.

I’m sure it’s not healthy…

 

Patience is a virtue they say.

I don’t think it’s one of mine.

On great expectations and disapointment

I am a glassblower.

More accurately a scientific glassblower.

I have just been on a course to learn what it takes to pass the exams which entitle me to become a master-glassblower. Or glassblowing master. Or glassblowing mistress I suppose.

Whatever. The point is that I was there. And now I’m back.

And I’m not verily impressed.

I like learning.

That’s probably not a cool thing to say, but since very little of what I do or wear or am is particularly cool in the popular sense, I shall say it anyway.

I actually really do like learning things. New things, interesting things, exciting things. I’m not that big on learning what it feels like to have your bed collapse under you, or how to break up with people, or just how much it hurts to have people cut you up without properly anethetising you first (yup, all things I learnt at one time or another (or am learning ;))) but those are things you learn because you have to and not because you want to..

I like learning the things I WANT to learn.

And some of the things life wants me to learn and which I wouldn’t’ve thought about learning by myself.

Whatever.

I CHOSE to sit on a train across Germany for 8 hours*, in order to drag the ankle-biting-suitcase across town and up a hill, in order to sleep in a semi-beaten-up-room in semi-beaten-up-halls, in order to be within walking distance of the glass-school, in order to sit in a classroom, in order to be taught things that with be useful to me, and therefore also useful to the people I make Glass Things for.

I CHOSE to willingly pay someone (some oneS) to share their knowledge with me.

What I didn’t choose, is for the teachers to be useless, unprepared or absent. I didn’t choose to learn about irrelevant things that will very likely never benefit me. Ever. I didn’t choose to have to transcribe hours and hours of dull teacher-talk to save him having to type it up and print it out for me. I didn’t choose to be taught/told the same things I learned while becoming a glassblower the first time round.

[Side Note: I am even more incredibly grateful to the-teachers-that-taught-me-the-first-time-round, than I was the first time round ;). It made translating the complicated jumble of chaos I was fed least week marginally easier…]

I didn’t choose to pay for people-more-chaotic-than-I-am to tell me they didn’t have time to go though the-maths-problems-they-wanted-us-to-solve BEFORE writing them on the board. I didn’t choose for metal workers to teach me about gear changes or about how fast cogs turn. I didn’t choose to learn how the 57 varieties of glass-melting ovens are built or exchanged. I think I am beyond needing to learn how to calculate the area of squares and rectangles and even circles for that matter. Despite, or maybe because of, already being capable of working out the hypotenuse of a triangle given the length of both the other sides, I don’t see why it should be skipped because of being ‘far too complicated’. If anything it should be skipped because there’s no need to dwell on things people can already do. Having decided not to skip it after all, I would have been more forgiving if they’d explained it CORRECTLY to the few people who needed the explanation. If they’d also labelled the sides and corners properly I would have been tempted to give them a bonus gold star. I would have also appreciated it if they’d had any understanding of what brackets mean when written in mathematical equations. It is probably better to be momentarily confused by a textbook which uses a different letter for the same thing, than to try and work out why you need both terms in one equation [for anyone wondering what I mean, try this for size:  “a x b x c(h)”   where c is the side that make a square into a cube and is referred to as height in some literature..].

ARGH.

I am a scientific glassblower.

I work with ready-made tubing and a super-snazzy bunsen burner. Or I would if mine was less than 40 years old. Let’s stick with snazzy. (I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard that used by anyone under about 50 and not at all in the last 15 years. Told you I wasn’t all that cool ;))

Anyway. What I mean is I don’t have anything to do with melting-ovens. Or gears. Or cogs.

I admit that it’s interesting to know all these things. I could be thankful for knowing them if I wasn’t so aware that knowing them means I spend time not learning about the things I actually wanted to know. The course is a total of 4 weeks spread over 9 months. Last week was the second week. So far we have learned

  • how to get iron out of rocks and how to recycle it when you don’t need it anymore
  • how to calculate the area of very simple shapes (triangles are way too hard) and the volume of only slightly less simple ones
  • how not to work out the speed of cogs going round and making other cogs turn
  • how not to work out the volume of glass in a wineglass (“the answersheet is 100% right!” “um.. the question said 4 mm on each side… the answers assume 4mm total” “oh..”)
  • the history of glass from 7000 BC to now, including a lot of names of people who did incredible things which unfortunately have nothing to do with scientific apparatus
  • how glass is melted (from scratch), what the ovens look like, how they are replaced, what the advantages of oven X over oven Y are (except if you have to cope with problem A or B in which case oven Z would be better)
  • how not to translate Pascals into deciPascals
  • and gone over some of what we learned at baby-glasblower-school about what glass is made of and what it’s good at

None of which was particularly well taught.

On a positive note, and to stay on the fair side of the truth, we did learn what to do after getting hydrofluoric acid on your skin (No panic, none of us did 🙂 It was just the only really useful thing we learned).

I would have liked to have learned about vacuum. Not vacuum cleaners, but the sort of vacuum chemistry students need in order to carry out experiments with things that explode if they make contact with air. I would have liked to learn about ventiles and taps and the methods of making them vacuum tight. I would have liked to learn about how pressure works, and how to work out how to make Glass Things that withstand 9 Bar pressure without breaking. I would like to know who’s responsible for things if/when they break, and how to protect oneself if They place the blame on one. I would have liked to learn about what the apparatus are used for and how to better advise my customers what’s possible and what’s just fantastical. I would like to know about how to place orders and calculate how much my finished Glass Things should cost. I would like to know about air-conditioning units and how to work out how strong they need to be in order not to gas oneself while working. I would have liked to learn how to handle the reflective silver coating used on/in evacuated Glass Things and the brown coating used to protect the contents of the Glass Things from UV rays. I would have liked to learn about joining metal to glass. I would have liked to have watched a video about how glass-tubing is made (okay so I know a little bit of theory, but we’ve seen so many videos of ovens it would be nice to see one about something relevant ;)). I would like to know about electrodes and glass-glue and making glass frit and Glass-welding and grinding and polishing and …

There are so many things I want to know I won’t continue with this list, because I want to get some sleep tonight.. Also, not having been taught all the things a master glassblower is supposed to know, I don’t know what else there is out there.

More than all the separate things on that list though, I think I would have liked to have teachers who cared about what they taught and about their students. I would have liked them to be prepared for their lessons and to have correct workings and answers to their questions. I would have liked them to know what they were talking about and be able to explain it to the people who don’t. Knowing that the teachers write the exams and that they are likely to be easy since we haven’t done anything hard yet isn’t really adequate compensation. I wasn’t there [just] for the title, I was there for the knowledge.

I had great expectations.

I was disappointed.

I still am disappointed.

I wasn’t sure where to go with my disappointment, and to be honest, I’m still not sure where to go with my disappointment.

I’m working on it.

Slowly.

In the meantime I went skiing. But that will have to wait for a new post.

* actually, I chose to sit on one for 6 hours, the powers-that-be chose to make it longer.

On a wet and windy night

A wet and windy night met her at the door and accompanied her to the entrance of the station. She was almost glad of the company.

The day had started so well. That surprised her. Recently, her days had all started with a bleary haze, been greeted with a grumpy monolgue of varying lengths and volumes and drawn out with a mix of frustrated silence, cheery banalities and the smell of beer. Today was different. It was a lot less bleary for a start, there was fruit juice and the warm smell of fresh (from frozen ;)) breadbuns. There was a walk to the busstop at something which resembled a ‘leisurely’ pace. There had been a short, gruff, “Good Morning” followed by a distinct lack of monologue. Shortly afterwards, she’d come back from the toilet to find her new ‘ProjectMeister’ waiting for her with 2 2litre beakers and some encouraging words. The grumpy voice took it’s leave with a terse “‘bye” and pulled the door firmly shut behind itself.

The ProjectMeister discussed the new project with our heroine and mentioned his interest in glassblowing. 35 minutes later he walked out of the workshop proudly holding the world’s first trianglular spiral like a trophy.

She was left with a new sense of purpose; somehow the motivation vacuum had been temporarily turned off. She relished the prospect of doing something worthwhile for someone who was not only interested and interesting but was also capable of picking up new ideas and running with them, despite them still being fresh and not quite totally thought out yet.

After a remarkably pleasant morning of trial and error and a home-made ready-meal for lunch, the grumpy voice made a reappearance.

In the distance the motivation vacuum started ticking over, vibrating lightly.

The new project was packed away for the next opportunity. There was a more urgent project waiting. It had been her custom-made baby originally, but the custom had changed and the baby was too small. The grumpy voice had tried to steal it, discussing designs with the custom-meister (;)), the designs she’d helped develop. It was hardly fair she thought, he doesn’t even understand why it has to be like that, or care about the problems behind the idea. She supposed he’d meant well. He’d told her she wasn’t to do any more project work and to spend the time practising for her upcoming exam – “you need all the practise you can get, and then some” was his reasoning. Since then there’d been a stream of interesting projects and they’d all been removed from her clasp by the voice of reason. And now her baby was going to be mangled. It was unfair. There had been an exchange of words and a half-victory yesterday afternoon. “It’d better be finished by tomorrow” he’d said, hurling it back to her before packing up to go home, barely concealing his discontent and leaving the unspoken threat hanging in the air between them.

Tomorrow was now. She wouldn’t work on untempered glass which had cost her an evening. She should have started on it as soon as the voice had left, but she’d been so wrapped up in the new [semi-secretly accepted] project, that she’d almost succeeded in blocking out it’s feeble cries. Besides, having been shut out of her baby’s future, she hadn’t listened to the final decisions and since she couldn’t get through to the CustomMeister she had no way of knowing what to do until the voice returned and deigned to enlighten her..

The CustomMeister appeared just before the voice, though luckily there was just enough time before his arrival to work out what went where and at what angle and all the rest of it.

She spent the last common hour of their day faffing about and trying to look occupied while fending off disdaining comments about her genius constuction (the grinder has a water-spewing arm which reaches the middle of the wheel. The beakers are far too large to fit around the arm, so she’d moved it out of the way and errected a make-shift water tower which did the same job, if a little less consistently).

Once the voice was gone, she gave her secret project a yearning glance and forced herself to concentrate on her baby. She’d fought for it afterall. She prepared the pieces, put the holders in place, got her rubber-tube out and attached it to one end, and started working. It was going well until she let her perfectionism have a word. “Too long” was all it said, but she had to agree. The work was undone and re-prepared. Thick glass, even boro, doesn’t appreciate being warmed up too quickly, especially unevenly.

[enter your favourite description of the noise glass makes while it thinks about breaking, followed by a couple of select expletives and a mumbled ‘pleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’t break’].

She’d just about finished patching the cracks up and started joining the pieces together for the second time, when one of the holders started to wobble. She poked it a bit and it seemed ok. A few minutes later the other holder joined in. Argh. Swivelling quarter of a turn in her swivvel-chair to sort out the holders, she caught the tube on something (maybe the burner? or the armrest? or the table? or…) and was unable to prevent the inevitable.

Glassblowing isn’t always a spectator-sport. Children should be issued with earplugs on arrival if the chance of increasing their vocabulary worries their parents.

Sweeping up the fragments, she reminded herself that she was going dancing later and so still had a good hour or so to make a new baby (psssh! not like that!). And then she discovered something unimaginably terrible. Each piece had been made up of multiple Glass Things joined together. The flanges and ventiles were all still ok, if a little unconnected, EXCEPT for the ONE sort of ventile they didn’t have in stock.

A couple of minutes later she’d checked all the cupboards and the drawer or spares and random bit and found nothing suitable. She’d have preferred to confess to the CustomMeister there and then but he was as elusive as ever. She had to admit other people probably had better things to do than sit by their phones waiting to be phoned with bad news.

The motivation vacuum roared into action. Nothing more to be done except wait for tomorrow.

After eating the leftovers of her lunch, she made her way towards the station. In the rain, and the wind.